Family Law During COVID-19
The Maryland Judiciary’s statement on custody and parenting time states that all court orders for a child’s custody, parenting time, and child support are still in effect. The statement does say that in certain instances – as long as it is permitted by their court order – parents can jointly adjust their shared parenting responsibilities, as long as they agree that it is best for the child or children. If parents cannot come to an agreement, then the court order will control the situation.
Although Governor Hogan has issued a mandatory stay-at-home directive to Maryland residents in order to flatten the curve of coronavirus, the governor’s spokesman, Mike Ricci, announced that travel related to child custody is still considered essential. The announcement confirmed that parents with a custody order must comply with the court’s directive on visitation, stating that travel for the purposes of maintaining court-approved child custody and visitation plans is an “essential activity.”
If you have a case pending in Maryland courts that is considered a “family law emergency,” such as a custody, visitation, or support case, it is up to the judge to decide whether your case needs to be heard in person, whether it can be held via videoconference, whether it can be rescheduled, or if it can be resolved without having a hearing.Child Support
In the state of Maryland the courts announced that all child support must continue to be paid despite the evolving COVID-19 situation. The Maryland Judiciary does add that if you have any questions or need any help regarding child support payments, the Department of Human Services’ Call Center has a phone number that you can reach out to at 1-800-332-6347.
Many parents are wondering if there will be any enforcement actions taken against them if they are unable to pay their child support this month due to Governor Hogan’s stay-at-home mandate. Currently, the Maryland Department of Human Resources is monitoring all enforcement actions on a case by case basis. Again, they encourage Maryland residents to contact their Call Center with any questions regarding their case.
Many people who are unemployed because of the COVID-19 shutdowns may have a reduction in income that could warrant a modification of their child support obligations. In light of the current court closures, however, getting a child support order modified on the basis of income change may be very difficult. At least in the near term it is unlikely that this will be considered a high priority matter.Alimony
It appears that as of now, the Maryland judiciary is treating alimony payments the same way that they’re treating child support: payments must continue to be paid. All enforcement actions are monitored on a case by case basisDivorce
Divorce proceedings in Maryland courts are not considered essential or high priority matters. If you have a pending divorce case in Maryland you can expect all in-court hearings and proceedings to be on hold until the courts fully reopen. However, all out of court proceedings such as discovery and motions will still continue. Also, new divorce cases can still be filed in Circuit Court right now but the normal timetable for new filings will obviously be delayed.Coronavirus Stimulus Money and Delinquent Child Support
In an attempt to combat the growing economic crisis that the United States faces because of COVID-19, Congress passed the CARES Act, which includes a stimulus rebate payment to all Americans. The first CARES Act stimulus payments have already started going out, but if you owe back child support don’t expect to receive yours. Under the CARES Act, if you owe more than $500 in delinquent child support your coronavirus stimulus rebate payment can be intercepted and used to pay up to the full amount that you owe in back support.